Archive | July, 2013
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Pralongià: It’s All Downhill from Here (5)

31 Jul

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Marion told us over lunch that we would be walking all the way back down into Corvara rather than taking the cable car. This was probably the longest hike I had ever made…between 10 and 12 miles.

The way down was marked by fields of wildflowers, most notably these voluptuous yellow globe flowers.

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Sassongher in the foreground, Puez in the background.

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Now we could begin to see some of the houses of Corvara.

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When we hit pavement, we knew we were almost back.

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We peered into a nicely kept Churchyard.

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And a lovely kitchen garden.

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That night we went to dinner in the town of Ojes (pronounced Oh, yes). The group included Marion Posch and her boyfriend Vincenzo, the Russian Vladimir, and me.

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Pralongià: Are We ThereYet? (4)

31 Jul

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Much to my chagrin Rifugio Pralongià was not our stopping place for lunch. We walked on. The small green peak in the near distance was the Col di Lana. Once more I photographed the Sella behind an unused chair lift. Some of the lifts operate only in ski season.

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As we began our descent we passed this meeting of bikers.

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Marion on the trail before the Marmolada.

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The starkness of the Sella offset by the exuberance of yellow globe flowers.

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Kids hiking up the trail. They made it seem so easy.

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And a lone mountain biker.

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Yes, here we are at Rifugio Marmotta. This is where we finally sat and ate lunch on our way down from the plateau.

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Hearty food. That’s what they serve. This was an appetizer of Speck (bacon).

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Looking down to the remainder of our way. This had to have been a good 10 to 11 mile hike.

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Pralongià: When Can We Eat? (3)

30 Jul

Pralongià: Let's Eat (3)

We had been walking a long, long time and a long way. Right in the center of this photo is a building atop a green hill. That is Col Alto where we had disembarked from the cable car in the morning. We had hiked up and around in a big “C” and would soon emerge at the other end of the “C” at Rifugio Pralongià. I was hopeful that we would enjoy a hearty lunch when we arrived…This photo shows a lot. The town in the valley on the left is Colfosco where we stayed. The mountain like an inverted funnel is Sassongher. The sunlit area behind it is the Puez Odle Natural Park. We did not hike there because the weather looked questionable, but the Puez is also a well-known hiking area. So this photo shows where we have been. Now onward. Sun peeking out on the Sella.

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Alpenroses blooming before La Varella.

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Marion leading the way to Rifugio Pralongià.

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Here come the mountain bikers. Everyone moves out of the way.

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Sella again.

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Sassongher and Puez.

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Finally Rifugio Pralongià.  Now can we eat?

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Pralongià: Zoom Lens (2)

29 Jul

Pralongià: Zoom Lens (2)

The natural balcony of the Bioch Rifugio provided an excellent spot for photography. I changed lenses to see what I could capture with the zoom. Marmolada! Now with some interesting cloud cover.

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Sella.

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La Varella.

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Sella.

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Then we resumed our hike, so back to the regular lens, and another beautiful view of Marmolada.

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The pathway is this photo leads to our next destination: Rifugio Pralongià, the white building in the distance.

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Oh, to sit and meditate on Sella.

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The hillsides fall away like folds of green fabric.

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The truth in a small rundown hut on a mountain hillside.

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The dogs loved their hike too.

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Pralongià: The Most Beautiful Hike (1)

29 Jul

Pralongià: The Most Beautiful Hike

How could I pick this Day 4 hike as the most beautiful when each day’s hike produced scenery that was breathtaking? I chose this one because it had the elements which drew me here to begin with. I am referring to the green rolling hillsides and valleys with the towering stark peaks above covered with snow. To top it off the weather was absolutely perfect…sunny with some clouds and fresh cool mountain air. Blue sky, white snow and clouds, green meadows. These are the three colors of the Ladin flag. This lead photograph shows Marmolada, the Queen of the Dolomites, draped with glacial ice, the only glacier in the area. As we walked we could see mountains in all directions. There were so many beautiful views that I am breaking up this post into several segments.

We began early in the morning taking the gondola to Col Alt. Far below was the town of Corvara at the bottom of the valley. The Sella towered above. (The Sella can be considered the center of the Dolomite region).

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At the top we got our first stunning view of Marmolada blinding in the morning sun.

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In another direction we saw La Varella, the mountain where they have recently uncovered a prehistoric bear foot. We were standing on the undulating green hills of the Col Alt.

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In yet another direction we could look out on the peaks of the Austrian Alps in the North.

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Standing above the valley and covered in clouds was the tall sentinel of Sassongher.

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At first our path headed downhill, but not for long.

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Looking back on the Sella.

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Here were the rolling green hills we would climb to the Pralongià Plateau.

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We climbed through forested areas as well.

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I would have gladly rested here on this bench to catch my breath and contemplate the beauty all around me. However, this was a hiking trip, and we kept hiking. You can see the path that we were on curving up the hill ahead.

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I asked Marion to take some photos of me climbing the steep path so that I could show everyone back home the difficulty level of the hiking. Here you can see me with my orange backpack negotiating this particularly difficult stretch. Then in the following photo, if you look closely, you can see my arms in victory after I reach the top.

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Higher up now we saw Sella from a different vantage point.

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In the distance we saw Lagazuoi, our destination for tomorrow.

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I got out my camera for a people picture, and all of a sudden a voice drawled “Can I take a photo with all of you?” It was strange because the man’s voice sounded like John Wayne. I thought I was the only American in these parts. I asked him,” Where are you from?” Can you guess his answer? “California.” Whoa, that’s heavy man, being this far from the USA. So here we were, the hikers three, Vladimir, Marion, and me.

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A mountain hut with La Crusz behind (that is Santa Croce where we had hiked the previous day). To the right, La Varella.

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Once more Sassongher dramatically lit by the sun filtered through the clouds.

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La Crusz and La Varella.

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The path from whence we had come.

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Approaching one of the rifugios, this one called Bioch.

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From here there was a magnificent direct view of Marmolada.

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There was a large playground and sunning area here. Those big log chairs looked so inviting. I wanted to chase those kids off and lay down. This was not yet our stopping place.

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A Celebrity in Sports

24 Jul

A Celebrity in Sports    MARIA CANINS…Tour de France winner!

On Day 4 when we went up the Col Alto we met a sporting celebrity from the Val Badia. This was Maria Canins who was out early biking up and down the mountain. Actually we met her coming down as we were climbing up. She and Marion (our guide and Olympic gold medalist in snowboarding) knew each other well, so we all got introduced. Here we are after our introductions.

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And the Rains Came

23 Jul

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The threatening skies made it look like we were in fact on Golgotha. At this point we began to make our way back down the trail to the chair lift. Climbing up had been taxing on the leg muscles, but going down created great stress on the knees, and there was always the possibility of slipping on the loose scree. We wanted to be back before the skies opened up.DSC_0652

It was always a little adventure to get on the chair lift. The three of us stood in place and the chair lift came up behind us and scooped us up. I liked the knowledge that there was a safety net in case someone didn’t quite make the seat.

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We could look right into a garden, a lovely garden as we reached the town station.

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The rain held off until we were almost to the car. We piled in and Donatella drove us to San Martino where the Ciastel di Tor houses the Ladin Museum. Surrounded by mountains the Ladin culture has survived for centuries. Ladin language is taught in the schools and there is a great sense of national pride among the Ladin population. By the time we arrived at the museum the rain was coming down hard and the ground was soggy.

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Inside we found some very modern Ladin woodcarvings.

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Ciastel di Tor

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A typical cooking hearth from the past.

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Here is the only Edelweiss I ever saw, one made of silver in a traditional jewelry style.

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Wooden toy making.

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Traditional painting of chests and wardrobes.

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Back once more in Colfosco we said our goodbyes to the lovely Donatella, since Marion would take over as guide for the remainder of the hike.

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Blackbird, Blackbird

23 Jul

Blackbird, Blackbird

I had seen a lot of these velvety blackbirds flying around the heights and finally I got to meet one. It was surprisingly tame and didn’t mind me getting close to take a photo. This was the only fauna that we met on our hike. Flora was another story. Everywhere we walked there were colorful wildflowers to enjoy. We had seen a lot on Seiser Alm, but even more were apparent on our walk to Santa Croce. Enjoy these photos keeping in mind that I do not have a macro lens.

Not certain of the names of the flowers.  This might be salvia.

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The forest floor with pine cones.

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Alpine roses.

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Unfortunately I cannot name most of these flowers. If you know their names, kindly fill me in.

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Our Pilgrimage to Santa Croce

22 Jul

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The dubious weather conditions made Day 3 in the Dolomites a bit if-y as far as hiking conditions went. Our plan was to hike up to the pilgrimage church of Santa Croce, underneath the peak of the same name. Donatella was our guide for the day. Here you see her and Vladimir approaching the church from below. You will also see that it was very cloudy, although I thought the cloud cover actually created more atmosphere and depth for photo taking. Following is a photo essay of the journey. We began with a chair lift from Badia. There are actually two consecutive chair lifts to Santa Croce, but we only used the first one, then hiked up the rest of the way.

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The chair lift allowed us to have a real bird’s eye view onto the farms on the hillside.

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Here is what it looked like to be sitting on the chair lift, camera securely around my neck, feet dangling over fields of wildflowers.

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We arrived at the mountain station where we begin our walk. Actually, the guide called it a walk. It felt like a trek or a climb to me. I am still trying to figure out what the teepee is doing on the mountainside in Italy.

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As I mentioned, Santa Croce is a pilgrimage church. The Stations of the Cross lead you up the trail to the church. Here is Station #3 where Jesus falls for the first time.

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Here is our guide Donatella coming up the path. You can tell judging from the teepee the steep grade of the trail, like climbing stairs, a lot of stairs. In the background is the Sella group, which forms the center of the Dolomite region.

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Here was a very unusual crucifix. Notice the absence of a body, but there is a heart, two hands, and two feet. The path at this point ran through forest.

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Two more photos looking down the trail to see how far we’ve come. It was a constant steep grade, to me at least, and this was the first day out after being sick in bed with a fever.

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This is the consistency of the rock and gravel we walked upon. It was loose, so there was always a danger of slipping, particularly on the way back down, but I never fell.

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Here is the top station of the second chair lift that we didn’t take. Here is a good view of our mountain track and the elevation grade.

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Looking back down the valley. The rain  clouds were still present, although we had not had a downpour yet.

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I was smiling with the church in view. Forested slopes, green meadows. the stark beauty of the Dolomite rock with its pink cast, and the humble church and rifugio at journey’s end.

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At the church looking back.

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Interior of Santa Croce.

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A stairway leads up to the three crosses.

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The rifugio was so welcoming with lovely potted flowers flanking the doorway.

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And inside a warm and cozy atmosphere and hearty food for travellers. Vladimir and Donatella.

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And me. While we were inside eating, it rained.

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But it stopped, when we were finished. We had time to explore the area and take more photos.

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The dolomite rock was seabed eons ago. It is made up coral, shells, and the remains of sea creatures. All over the Dolomites you can see erosion at work with the slides of scree falling away from the mountainside. In millions of years will the Dolomites be reduced to giant piles of rubble as the wind and rain and snow do their work? Donatella told me that she and her friends loved to run down the scree slides digging in their heels as they ran.

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More photos of this hike still coming.

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Changing Valleys

21 Jul

Changing Valleys

Hard as it was to leave the comfortable environs in Ortisei, Val Gardena, we had to move eastward to our next location in Val Badia. Early in the morning we headed out driven by our guide Marion. The car climbed upward on hairpin turns to the Passo Gardena, which was the divider between between the two valleys. When we came down the other side we were in a new area and we headed for the tiny town of Colfosco, our home for the next two nights. Marion’s family owns an inn and a sports equipment shop. We stayed there at the Hotel Garni Bel Air. Here I am at Passo Gardena wrapped up in layers on my first day out after being very ill with a fever and URI. Early in the morning the skies were threatening and didn’t promise good weather for today’s hike. Notice the mountain biker. They are everywhere. I have great respect for the vitality and endurance of these bikers. The only thing harder than climbing these mountain paths is biking up them. Also notice the small church. It doesn’t matter how high or how remote the location, you can always find a church or a chapel in the vicinity. The next few photos are not the best quality because I shot them from the car while Marion was driving.

There are always tunnels.

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Driving on these high mountain roads can be unnerving when you have to share them with large trucks (lorries, as they say).

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The weather did not look at all good as we approached Passo Gardena.

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It was definitely raining over there.

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We were near the top of the pass and here you can get a good look at the dolomite rock, which can have a pinkish cast in certain light conditions. This rock was once seabed and contains the remains of coral reefs.

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A lone biker under overcast skies.

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Back in the car we headed down into Val Badia. Here is a good view of the hairpin turns that Marion had to navigate.

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And we arrived. Alta Badia is a section of the Val Badia. Notice the Welcome sign in three languages: here in Ladin, then Italian, and German.

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Every town has three names in the three main languages. Here is our destination in German, Ladin, and Italian. We always called it Colfosco.

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Our new abode.

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And the Posch Sport store. Remember Marion was a Olympic gold medalist in snowboarding.

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I noticed the greenway over the road and assumed it was for animals crossing, just like the ones over the Autobahn in Germany. Not so. This is a ski run.

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Then we met Lucky, their dog. The Posch family always had black dogs and they always named them Blackie. When they got their newest pup, he wasn’t black, so they couldn’t use that name. Lucky sounded close enough to Blackie and it fit.

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Here is Marion Posch with her shy nephew. Marion never ceased to amaze with her stamina, her linguistic abilities and her vast knowledge of the area.

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